First, there was speculation that Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
would lose his job if the Red Devils lost to Stoke City or Chelsea in the post-Christmas week. Then after United lost
to Stoke, 2-0, on Saturday, the speculation was that van Gaal would lost his job if United lost to Chelsea on Monday. Well, United didn't lose.
A 0-0 with Chelsea at Old Trafford left
United without a win in eight games in all competitions -- its longest winless streak in a quarter of a century -- and five points out of the top four and nine points behind new leader Arsenal at the
halfway mark of the Premier League.
And where does that leave van Gaal? "When the players give such a performance with a lot of pressure," he said after the Chelsea game, "there's no
reason to resign." He could look to an improved performance that saw both Juan Mata
and Anthony Martial
hit the woodwork in the first half. But an improved performance is all relative
after the miserable Boxing Day showing at Stoke and against Chelsea, which is closer to the relegation zone -- three points -- than United is to the top four.
Van Gaal, who stormed out of
a pre-Christmas news conference after ripping the media for speculating about his future, again took aim at the press after the Chelsea game.
"The crisis here is the environment," he
said, "and you [the media] are part of that. The players are willing to fight for every meter. The manager is willing to fight. The members of staff are willing, to fight and the board has every
confidence in the staff and the manager."
Van Gaal was not ignorant enough to believe he was out of the woods.
"In this crazy football world," he said, "it can happen every
day and also with me. When it happens to Jose Mourinho
, then it can happen with me."
Mourinho was fired as Chelsea manager before Christmas and has been linked with the United job
that he once coveted. He is currently on vacation in Brazil but hopes to have a new job at the beginning of January.
If van Gaal is a goner, it remains to be seen if Mourinho will have
the blessing of the United old guard, the likes of Alex Ferguson
and Bobby Charlton
United passed on Mourinho when Ferguson retired and instead chose David Moyes
as Ferguson's replacement. Charlton was believed to be leaning toward Mourinho, then at Real Madrid, until he poked
then-Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova
in the eye on the sidelines.
“A United manager wouldn’t do that,” Charlton later said
“Mourinho is a really good coach, but that’s as far as I would go really. He pontificates too much for my liking.”
Mourinho's sideline antics and pontificating have, if
anything, gotten worse, the prime example being his run-in with Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro
Without a successor lined up for van Gaal -- Pep Guardiola
take over at Manchester City after his tenure at Bayern Munich ends -- the Dutchman should feel emboldened that he just might ride out the current storm.